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NLP Communication Model

We perceive the world through our senses.
Through an internal process the sensory perceptions are transformed into external behaviour. This process (from perception to behaviour) is shown in the NLP communication model.

Every second approximately 4.5 million units of information are presented to us. If we should consciously perceive this chaos of information we should become overwhelmed. Therefore we (unconsciously) filter this information by delete, distort and generalise information.

Communication Model Mind Academy

Based on our observation and the filtering of the information we form an internal representation, or a thought pattern. This internal representation is composed of images, sounds, feelings, internal dialogue (words that you say to yourself), smell and taste. The internal representation and physiology (including attitudes and biochemical processes) have a significant interaction with each other. It creates the mood and finally sends this behaviour and your results.

Before the internal representation is created, the information from the outside world is filtered. On the unconscious level, a choice is made on which stimuli may or may not penetrate the internal representation. We filter the information based on our understanding of time and space, matter and energy, our capacity for language, our memories, decisions, meta programs, values, beliefs and attitudes.

From this model, each person has a unique perception of the world. If you are not satisfied with the way you perceive the world, change your filters. The true reality consists of much more information than we consciously perceive. Our internal representation can not possibly contain the reality. The map is not the territory as referred to by Alfred Korzybski.
The map–territory relation describes the relationship between an object and a representation of that object, as in the relation between a geographical territory and a map of it.

The psychologist George Miller wrote an article called The magic number seven, plus or minus two. He theorised that this 'magic' number represents the number of items we are able to hold in our short term memory at any given time. Plus or minus 2.
These items can vary in size. In fact, in the process of learning to drive, the steering, throttle, brake, turning and looking in the mirrors in the first lesson are perceived as separate units. If we continue the 4-step learning process and become adequate we experience driving as a unit creating more space in our system of perception and behaviour to learn more new things.
We could for example follow an anti-slip course or learn reversing with a trailer.

The unconscious filters

In the communication model, we distinguish the following filters:

  1. Time and Space
  2. Matter and Energy
  3. Language
  4. Memories
  5. Decisions
  6. Meta Programs
  7. Values and Beliefs
  8. Attitudes

Time, Space, Matter and Energy

The filters time & space and matter & energy are one of the most unconscious filters. Einstein demonstrated in his special theory of relativity (*) that these concepts are very relative and therefore values vary in each situation.

The example that Einstein's theory explains is that of a train which rides past a platform on which a person is standing at 100 km per hour. This person experiences the train as a fast moving object. For a second observer sitting in another train on another track travelling at the same speed, it will feel like the other train is stationary. For this observer it will seem that the person on the platform, the platform and the rest of the environment moves in the opposite direction at a speed of 100 kilometers. With this theory, Einstein showed the relativity of sensory perception and gave this answer to the question whether the ideas and thoughts of sensory perceptions called upon gave a full and accurate picture of reality.

Time, space, matter and energy are a personal experience. The filter time is the most concrete filter in the perception of many people, perhaps because time is an increasingly important place in our society. Although we have the concepts of time, space, matter and energy in measurable units the real experience differs per person. Just to make it measurable man has made logical units, after which many people assume that the perception of these concepts are the same per person. Nothing is less true. For example, it may be that different people have different perceptions of one hour. It is also possible that if we place several people in the same room that they experience it in a different way.

The same applies for matter. As an example, different people experience the structure of fabric in a different. Finally, many people experience the feel of energy in a different way. Energy is for example the feeling we get when radiant energy (cold / heat), propulsion energy (speed), gravitational energy (jumping / falling), BioGeometry etc.


With language we mean the ability to structure external events and give it a meaning. Like the other filters, language helps us to give structure to the multitude of information coming at us. We can give meaning to the world because we have the ability to use language. Actually our language sends perception. The greater the capacity for language, the more shades anyone can apply in the structuring of the outside world.

For example, a child who is just learning to talk will call all sorts of cars a “car” or something similar. Later the child learns the concept car can be divided into several varieties like 'truck', 'race', etc.

Memories and decisions

Your behaviour in the now is being determined by your memories and past decisions. To give structure to all information that comes our way, we tie this information to what we've already experienced. Moreover, we keep our world model (our truth) in stand by the decisions that we have taken about ourselves and the world on the basis of that experience. For example, rain can easily be referred to as 'bad weather' and sun as 'good weather'.

John Locke (1632-1704) was the first philosopher who started from the position that we have no consciousness before we have had a sensory experience. Later, the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) characterised our system as an active making body. It not only receives impressions from outside observation, but also does something with it.. Every person, in their own way does something different and unique based on previous sensory experiences and decisions.

Meta Programs

Meta Programs are 'styles of perceptions’ and form one of the most unconscious filters. They make it like the other filters for which we pay attention to. Meta Programs are also called "sorting styles" because they take care how we sort information. From the research of George Miller, we know we are capable per second between 5 and 9 units of information to be processed consciously. The meta programs are like the "software" that causes units to which attention.


Values are the things that are important to us. They motivate you in advance to do what you want to do and afterwards evaluate how satisfied you are with the result. They steer your perception of what you are paying attention to. They steer any time of the day at an unconscious level and you can be conscious this. For example, someone who has 'health' in their value hierarchy are more willing to eat healthy and exercise than someone who does not have this value or finds it less important. Another name for values in NLP is criteria.


Beliefs are mighty and powerful mechanisms that steer our perception of ourselves and the world at any time of the day and maintains our model of the world. Beliefs give security in our lives, while at the same time can be our pitfall. Our memories and the associated beliefs in the here and now sometimes get in the way. For example, someone who has many memories of the times when he was not so good in his words during public speaking, will probably in the here and now not be the first to register for a speech.


Attitude is another word for posture. An (unconscious) way you react to situations. Attitudes are strongly linked to values and beliefs. You could also say that an attitude has a set of values and beliefs with respect to a particular context.

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